Managing symptoms - pain and pain control

Being in pain can make it harder to cope both physically and emotionally with everything else that is going on. Working with your healthcare team to manage your pain in the way that works best for you can make a huge difference to your quality of life.

What types of pain might I get?

We all experience pain differently, so your experience will be unique to you. The kind of pain you feel, where you feel it and how intense it is will vary according to your illness and the stage you’re at.

Other factors, such as if you are worried or are having trouble sleeping may have an impact.

Pain is normally described as ‘acute’ or ‘chronic’. Acute means that it only lasts a short time, for example you might get it when you make a particular movement. Chronic pain is pain that lasts a long time.

Your health professional will ask you lots of questions to try to understand what is happening for you, so that together you can find the best way to manage it.

Questions they might ask include:

  • Where is the pain in your body?
  • Is it in one place, more than one place or spread around an area?
  • How often and when do you get the pain?
  • Does it start after meals, early in the morning, at night?
  • How does it start?
  • Does it happen suddenly, perhaps when you move in a certain way?
  • Or does it start gradually?
  • What does it feel like?
  • Is it there all the time or does it come and go, is it sharp, is it throbbing, is it tingling, is it a dull ache, does the area feel as if it’s burning, or is it tender to touch?
  • How bad is it on a scale of 0 to 10, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine?
  • Is there anything that makes it worse, such as movement, eating, or deep breathing?
  • Is there anything that helps to relieve it, such as heat, cold, changing position, or massage?
  • What medication are you taking for the pain?

Why am I experiencing pain?

If you experience pain you haven’t had before, or the pain gets worse, it can be very frightening. You might worry that it is a sign that your illness is progressing. But the amount of pain you have does not necessarily reflect how advanced your condition is. It is also possible that the pain you are experiencing is not related to your illness at all. It could simply one of those things that many of us experience, such as a headache or arthritis.

What will help with the pain?

It is important to talk to your health professional early about any pain you are experiencing, even if it is quite mild and you feel you can cope. This helps them control it in good time more effectively.

There are many different types of and strengths of pain relief drugs (analgesics) that are suitable for different types of pain. Your health professional will work with you to identify the right type of pain relief and the right dose for you.

People often worry about taking pain relief drugs and want to try to limit the amount of medication they take. However, it is important to take them regularly as prescribed. There may also be some approaches that you can use that can alleviate any pain you’re experiencing.

Different approaches work for different people, but some of the things you can try include:

  • Change your position at least every two hours as this will help to prevent you getting stiff or getting sore skin. Also, you may find some positions are more comfortable for you than others.
  • Use relaxation techniques such as listening to calming music and breathing slowly and deeply.
  • Try complementary therapies – a friend or family member could give a gentle massage to your back, hands or feet, or you could visit a professional for aromatherapy, acupuncture, hypnotherapy or reflexology.
  • Use hot or cold packs on the area which is painful. Remember to wrap them up in a towel, so you don’t damage your skin. Doing something you enjoy such as chatting with a friend or watching TV can help take your mind off the pain.
  • Using extra pillows or cushions for support when sitting or in bed
  • Take a bath, if possible, as the warmth of the water can help you relax and alleviate the pain.